Jodie looked great; beautiful blonde hair, wide smile, shining eyes. “Five years ago next month,” she said.

Waiting in line for some organic goodness at the Farmers Market, she called out my name from across the throng, not knowing that I needed to hear from her. I didn’t even know myself.

Cancer came calling for her five years ago. I used to see her standing in the lunch line at work, head hidden by a colorful scarf. I would approach her with trepidation back then. Sorry Jodie, sorry for doing that. Sorry for telling you now. I wasn’t sure what to say, what to ask, how to feel.

Then her obnoxious visitor knocked on my door. Jodie knew what to ask. She knew what to say, how to feel. God, thank you for that. Thank for helping me along those early steps. Sorry for just telling you now.

She’s had two babies since then and has gotten on with living, something fierce. This time, I knew what to talk about; friends, family, futures. We spoke of not just surviving, but thriving. That’s the new, hip, hot way to talk about licking cancer, just so you know.

I didn’t tell her I’d been on a worrying streak lately. I couldn’t express that weird, gnawing fear that sometimes creeps in that maybe I didn’t beat the odds. Maybe this was all an act. That minor indigestion just now, stomach cancer? Chest beating as I top the stairs, heart attack?

But there she was, looking better than she does on facebook, vital, strong, doing something simple like buying fresh food for her family on a Saturday morning. I introduced her to my wife, chatted a bit more, then we went our own ways.

Something changed in me, though. There was a lot less lumber on my shoulders as we drove home. My recent, silly anxieties had somehow eased up and mostly floated away. I think the heaviest loads we carry are the ones we don’t feel until their absence.

And there again, I have Jodie to thank. Thank you just for living, for making babies, for going to the Farmers Market.

And thank you for calling my name in the middle of all that chaos.